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November 16, 2018

In 60 seconds or less, can you explain what your 21st CCLC program does and why it matters? To make sure you’ll always have the right words on the tip of your tongue, create an elevator pitch. That’s a ready-made speech short enough to give on an elevator ride. You can use it to persuade your veterinarian to take part in your program’s career exploration day, to get a youth counselor to join your planning team, or to tell Aunt Aggie about your work when she visits during the holidays.

Here’s an example of an elevator pitch for Y4Y:

The U.S. Department of Education created You for Youth to help people working in 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs deliver quality out-of-school time education and enrichment to more than 1.6 million students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. You for Youth provides free online professional learning resources on topics like program management and summer learning. We also collaborate with other federal agencies like NASA to expand staff and student learning opportunities. This work is important because research shows students who attend high-quality out-of-school time programs are more likely to do better in school and beyond.

Customize your pitch for different purposes. If you’re talking with parents, you might emphasize student benefits. If you’re recruiting community partners, you’ll want to mention “what’s in it for them.” If a reporter gives you the microphone for 10 seconds, you’ll have to strip things down to the basics: “The U.S. Department of Education’s You for Youth initiative provides professional learning experiences for 21st Century Community Learning Centers program staff to help young people succeed in school and beyond.” If you’re lucky enough to keep the microphone longer, cite data or tell a story to support your point.

Resist the urge to say too much, and practice your pitch on family and friends. When we tested our Y4Y elevator pitch, someone asked, “What’s a 21st CCLC program?” So we added “out-of-school time.” It gets the idea across without a lot of extra words.    

For tips on creating and using an elevator pitch, download Y4Y’s Creating a Program Elevator Pitch. This one-page tool makes it easy for you and your team to get the job done. Aunt Aggie will be impressed.


October 24, 2018

Some days, planning and running a 21st CCLC program can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything alone! Community partners can add resources and expertise to your tool box and provide diverse experiences for students, ranging from drug and alcohol prevention to dance lessons. It’s important to build partnerships thoughtfully, however, so they benefit everyone involved.

Map your community assets.

Start by listing your program needs and your current resources. Then expand your list by brainstorming additional community resources available through institutions, organizations, businesses and individuals. This process is called asset mapping. Be sure to involve others! Ask colleagues, parents, friends and youth for ideas. A staff member’s spouse might work at a local bank that provides financial literacy activities for all ages. A parent who works in the science department of your local university might know about resources for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities. Expand your search to the online community if you can’t find local assets related to a program need.

Identify and recruit potential partners.

Potential partners might include schools and universities, libraries, museums, businesses, nonprofit organizations, professional societies, government agencies, media outlets, clubs or special interest groups, family members and other individuals. Brainstorm all possibilities before prioritizing the list and recruiting partners who are willing and able to work with your program to address a specific topic or need.

Communicate and collaborate with partners.

Once you connect with a potential partner, you’ll want to create a compelling shared vision. How will students benefit? How will the partners benefit? How will the larger community benefit? At a kickoff meeting, discuss your shared vision for why the partnership matters, and define roles and responsibilities. After that, schedule weekly or monthly check-in meetings. Include partners in program events such as end-of-year celebrations, and publicly acknowledge their contributions.

Use free Y4Y resources to help you build and strengthen partnerships.

The Y4Y Strengthening Partnerships course will help you learn how to identify partners, develop an effective memorandum of understanding, establish a shared vision, and communicate roles and responsibilities. The Y4Y Mapping Community Assets tool from the Summer Learning Initiative webpage can help you think about what your community has to offer. 


September 17, 2018

According to the Pew Research Center’s “Teens, Social Media & Technology Report 2018,” 97 percent of teens and 69 percent of adults use some form of social media. How can your program effectively harness the power of social media?

Getting Started

Before you start planning, do this:

  1. Check to see what social media policies and procedures your organization or district requires you to follow. There may be guidelines on which platforms are allowed or what process to use for getting platforms or content approved.
  2. Be clear about your purpose for using social media and how it will help you reach your goals.

Social Media Platforms

Let’s look at the most popular social media platforms and their possible uses.

Facebook is used by 68 percent of adults and 51 percent of teens ages 13 to 17. Teens from low-income families are more likely to use Facebook than those from higher-income families. It can help you connect with stakeholders and share photos, videos and messages, and engage in online discussions. You can create a public page or a private group, depending on your purpose and needs. Facebook Live videos have increased in popularity, and may be useful for broadcasting events or activities live (recordings can be posted to the program page). Take time to read the various account and privacy settings, such as the option to approve comments before they post to your page.

YouTube is used by 85 percent of teens. Posting and discussing videos can be a great way to market your program and to highlight activities and events all year. When uploading videos, consider YouTube’s three privacy options. Public means anyone can view the video, and it will appear in general search results. Private means only those you invite (up to 50 people) can view the video, and all viewers must have a YouTube account. Unlisted means only those with the video link can view it, and there are no account requirements or viewer limits. Think about what privacy level is right for your program.

Snapchat has grown exponentially, with 69 percent of teens using the app. A picture or video snap or message sent to a friend or group will disappear once viewed, while stories, pictures or videos available to all your friends will disappear after 24 hours. Some 21st CCLC programs have used the app for marketing or communicating with teens. It’s important to monitor the account closely.

Instagram allows users to post pictures or videos with captions, and viewers can comment. There is also the option to broadcast live. You can set an account to be private (must approve friends) or public. Currently, 72 percent of teens and 35 percent of adults use Instagram, which makes it a viable option for marketing and communication. Individuals must have an Instagram account to view material on this visually focused platform.

Twitter remains consistently popular with adults and teens. Tweets can consist of photos, videos or text, but text is limited to 280 characters. Hashtags (words preceded by a # sign) can be used to categorize tweets.

Many platforms work well together, so you can cross-post items to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or share links to YouTube videos. Several free online services will automatically cross-post for you.

Safety Measures

Don’t forget these three important safety measures:

  1. Post from the program or organization account — never from your personal account.
  2. Make sure you have a signed, current media release on file for anyone mentioned by name or pictured in a photo or video.
  3. Monitor your posts as well as user posts and comments to make sure your messaging is consistent and user posts and responses are appropriate.

“See” you online!



June 20, 2018

Many site coordinators describe feeling frantic as they wrap up the school year and sprint into summer trying to get things ready at the last minute. Sound familiar? Y4Y can help: Over the past two years, 40 programs across seven states have engaged in structured planning to increase the quality and intentional design of their summer programs and end the summer sprint. Now, you can use their process and learn from practitioners like you across the nation.

The Summer Learning Initiative section of the Y4Y website presents a seven-step process for planning a high-quality summer program. Starting the September before, you will follow a path that begins with building your program team and concludes with reflecting on successes and ways to continuously improve. And, believe it or not, the planning process will have you completely ready for summer before the school year ends!

You can start by downloading a comprehensive Program Implementation Planner to support your planning process. The planner will keep you organized and on schedule while helping you capture important details. It’s also useful for orienting new program leaders, and for getting a head start on planning future summer learning. (Try using it in Google Sheets to achieve a truly collaborative team experience.) As you scroll down the page with the Planner, look for the helpful Sample Planner and and the User Guide, and listen to a podcast that will walk you through the planner tab by tab.

Y4Y’s Summer Learning Initiative section describes each planning step in detail, offers downloadable tools and resources, and provides engaging videos to give you a peek into the experiences and programs of the participating sites. If you missed the Summer Learning Series of webinars, you can access the recordings to help launch your planning. To avoid the dreaded last-minute sprint, start now, and you’ll spring into next summer feeling stress-free and ready for a season chock full of exciting learning!

Seven Steps to a High-Quality Summer Program

  1. Build Your Planning Team
  2. Conduct a Needs Assessment
  3. Set SMART Goals
  4. Plan Your Logistics
  5. Intentionally Design Activities
  6. Intentionally Recruit Students
  7. Continuously Improve Your Program


June 20, 2018

Do you wake up each morning with a new brilliant idea for your program? That’s wonderful! But when was the last time you encouraged your program team to bring their ideas to the table? Try these strategies to bolster professional learning this fall, and you’ll set the stage for teamwork and creativity.

  1. The spontaneous yes. The next time you hear a team member introduce a good idea with “I wish…” or “If only…,” respond with an enthusiastic “Yes! Terrific idea!” Follow up by asking them to start thinking of ways to make it happen. Offer to put the idea on the agenda for a future team meeting so they can get input from others and develop the idea further. Your encouragement and support might be just the push they need to get the ball rolling.
  2. Virtual brainstorming. These sessions often start in real time during team meetings and move to a virtual (online) space with a "ticking clock" deadline (usually 1 to 5 days). This approach gets even the most shy or reluctant team member to participate. Team members can add to one another's ideas during the virtual brainstorming session but refrain from evaluating or criticizing ideas. No decisions are made until after the deadline.
  3. The “what if” game. Invite your team to reflect on this question: “If money and resources were not an issue, what program practice would you add, change or get rid of, and why do you think it would make a positive difference?” Once everyone’s ideas are on the table, challenge the team to “think outside the box” about possible ways to make their best ideas come true. (You could use the “virtual brainstorming” process to play this game.)